Holden FE – FC history

In terms of market share, the Holden FE and FC were amongst the most successful Aussie-built cars ever

Photographers: Peter Bateman

This article was originally published in the May 2007 issue of Street Machine

BY THE time the FJ Holden was replaced with the FE in July 1956, Australia’s own had taken many steps forward. The six-volt electrics were replaced with a 12-volt set-up, the two-piece windscreen was replaced with a single curved item and the skinny 15in rims were replaced with 13×4.5 steelies.

Unlike the FX-FJ, the FE was designed locally by an Australian team. The resulting car was much sleeker than the earlier models, being two inches longer in the wheelbase, four inches longer overall and slightly heavier than its predecessor. To compensate, the 132ci grey motor was blessed with another small dose of horsepower thanks to larger valves and improved cylinder heads. Other mechanical improvements included pendulum-style brake and clutch pedals, hydraulic clutch actuation, larger brake drums and recirculating ball (rather than worm and sector) steering. Other great leaps forward included optional heater, indicators, reversing lights, windscreen washers and demister.

The range remained the same — Standard, Business and Special — until the station wagon was introduced in 1957. That same year, FE utes and vans were released to replace the FJ commercial models. A total of 155,161 FEs were produced and delivered Holden a massive slice of the Australian market: in 1957, 42.7 per cent of all passenger cars sold in Australia were Holdens!

Holden FE in detail:

1. The 132ci grey motor received a mild fettling for more horsepower but the most significant advances under the bonnet were the relocation of the brake and clutch cylinders to their rightful places on the firewall, and the conversion to 12-volt electrics.

2. A colour combination to die for — Frankston Cream and Etna Maroon. New features include the replacement of the FJ’s push-button starter with a conventional key, and a jukebox-style speaker grille with horizontal ‘dust collector’ slats.

3. The FE was far more modern-looking car than the FJ it replaced. The ornate Holden Special badge on the boot was FE only.

4. Another FE-only item is this circular bonnet badge. The FC moved back to the individual block H-O-L-D-E-N as used on the FX.

JULIUS GOBOLY, 1956 Special

THE Goboly FE will be familiar to any regular Summernats attendee — the car has made it into the Elite Top 60 on four occasions, taking out Top Authentic twice. The car also won Grand Champion Stock at the 2006 FE-FC Nationals, so there’s no doubting that this one’s a goodie! The car is painted in Frankston Cream on the outside, contrasting beautifully with the Etna Maroon metallic duco on the dash and inner door panels. Julius dragged the shell, complete with a set of dodgy flared guards, out of a chook shed. He then bought a complete but rusty stocker as a guide and undertook a major rebuild. He added a camper seat (enabling it to lay back flush with the rear to make a handy double bed), as well as spats, rear venetians and bonnet ‘bird’.

Holden FC

The FC appeared in May 1958 and was essentially a facelift of the FE. The FC featured a lot more chrome and the option of a bolder two-tone paint design. The engine received a revised camshaft profile and a slight increase in compression ratio. By the end of 1958, Holden’s market share had risen to 50.1 per cent, with a total of 191,724 FCs being sold by the time the model was superseded by the FB, which appeared in May 1961.

While the FE-FCs didn’t prove as popular in race or drag circles as the FX-FJs, a number did manage to cover themselves in glory, most notably the FEs of Bob Holden and Bruce McPhee.

Holden FC in detail:

1. From late 1959, Holden moved from using oil-bath style air filters to the low-line, replaceable paper type. A series of minor mechanical upgrades were brought into production during the FC’s production span but the basics remained as per the FX.

2. An easy way to pick an FC over an FE from the rear is the addition of chrome fins on top of the rear guards. The rear blinkers also changed to orange on later examples.

3. From the front, an FC is easy to spot with its bolder grille and horizontal blinkers — the two-tone paint that runs above the side flash is also a give-away.

4. It might look basic but Graham’s car has a host of rare NASCO goodies on the inside, including a foot-operated windscreen washer, heater, glovebox light, handbrake light and a handrail for the rear passengers.

GRAHAM PRYCE, 1959 Special

GRAHAM bought his FC with shagged paint despite just 19,000 miles on the clock. The car was fairly bare-bones as far as options go, with only the sun visor and bonnet ornament added to the Special’s standard fare. Graham added plenty more though, including rear spats, mudflaps, grille badge, side mirror, rear venetians, hand rail, foot-operated windscreen washer, heater, glovebox light, ignition switch light, handbrake light, cigarette rack, vanity mirror, horn ring, gearlever lock and doorhandle scratch plate! Those bits don’t grow on trees either — half the fun of building a resto like this is tracking down those rare optional extras.